31 January 2009

bear with the donut analogy.

I've been reading a collection of stories called Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. I climbed in bed to read two and a half hours ago, feeling exhausted, and her poised and constant gazing into the depths of peoples souls rejuvenated my mind (my body is still tired, from what? shopping?) and I just had to write down the title of an inevitable paper that must someday be created (my mind wanders). It's problematic, not knowing my future but knowing that this research would pull me back to Utah, were research a possibility (dark, as of late, I shun all possibilities, allowing only the purgatory of vacation to enter into my mind). Already I feel the tug of Utah and I have yet to leave.

I never expected Utah to become woven in to who I am. I left Washington with the rocket-powered urge to escape, thinking of what awaited me in the intimate terms of ward and potential husband and in the ironically penal description of "doing my time in Utah." (there is no better way to sum up those few months I did in the Seventh Ward). Such language was quickly replaced with the distant vocabulary of the historian comprised of far away events and vaguely titled theories. I too became distant. The shattering of self followed by consuming bouts of tears that somehow glued me back together are as remote to me as the intense spiritual warfare I waged everyday but never fared all that well at. At arms length, I offer you my interpretations as I neglect the private pages of my journal.

Utah has been so elusive. Occasional trips into the mountains or the desert have yielded confused awe; I have no frame of reference to compare Utah's anomalous scenery against. The same with its history. As much as I decry regional exceptionalism, American exceptionalism, or really anyone saying that some place is truly different (HA! there is no truth!), Utah really is the center in a Western donut, it doesn't fit. Preferring Boston Creams, it would seem that Utah is made entirely of pudding.

So Utah is unique, and baffling, and I have been content to write around the strangeness, to dismiss Utah as a character in the story I am trying to tell. Only when I got back from Washington did I even try to engage it, to accept that this embattled jilted territory made of stone and salt and Mormons and not is what I am and to know-- suddenly and strikingly-- the feeling of ownership. The milieu is odd but familiar, even familial.

Leaving is inevitable, but lacking the propulsive feeling, the thought elicits a sense of desertion rather than relief. I daresay that putting my things in my car and driving out of the comforting embrace of the mountains will tear my heart right out of my chest.


Queen Mum said...

And so you really did grow up. Maybe Utah is your home?

Jenel said...

You know I'm not the biggest fan of the snow around here, but I have thought on a number of occassions "I'll probably never live anywhere else that has such beautiful mountains."

Michaele said...

You guys are making me homesick!